BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
Following the broadcast by Nigerian actor Tunji Aderibigbe in which he called Top Actor producer, Samad Davis “wicked, greedy and callous,” sometime last month, TNS was finally able to get in touch with Samad to ask him for his own side of the story.
Tunji had participated in what was Samad Davis’ first deep foray in the world of reality TV production, Spirited Actor in 2012. Tunji came fourth in the competition and based on his experience, Tunji claimed in his widely-circulated message, he felt the need to warn other upcoming talents about Samad – especially in light of the build-up to the Nigerian auditions for Top Actor.
In the exchange below, Samad Davis presents his own side of the story, how the journey started for him, what he thought was Tunji Aderibigbe’s reasons were for the attack and more.
When and how did the reality show for actors, the Spirited Actor begin?
I have a real passion for Africa and connecting my talents, resources and connections to it. I was brought into the Bridging the Gap (between Africa and America) mindset by my uncle / mentor Balozi RMZ. Harvey who has worked establishing international trade / development between the U.S. Government and developing nations in Africa spanning decades. He has worked with every President in every country in Africa on behalf of the U.S. Governments Third World Trade Institute. My Father who also works with my uncle (handling legal affairs) has also been on the ground in Africa for decades doing great work. My point is I was introduced to Africa by men who have a deep rooted passion for Africa and who’s work on the continent speaks for itself. Eight (8) years ago they took me on a 35 day, five (5) country tour of Africa on my very first visit. My life was changed forever. I have never looked back and since then I’ve been involved with various job creating projects, with countless humanitarian efforts working with The Ashé Foundation, Sandji CDC and Magna World Partners to name a few whereby we have delivered and distributed over 15,000 pairs of shoes to children in need, tons of medical supplies to small clinics/villages in need, Sporting equipment to remote communities / villages in need and generators to help provided power to remote villages in need of electricity across Africa i.e., (Cote D’ Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique, South Africa, Liberia etc). We even built a full on school in Cote D. Ivoire consisting of 13 classrooms, a canteen and playground.
While on a trip with my uncle in Ghana, we were watching local programming on television and he turned to me and said “You can’t forget to bring your skills as a Film and Television producer to the continent as well. You could be value added in this area.” It was only after my Uncle spoke those words to me did I start injecting myself into the entertainment space in Africa. I started off doing a music video for an unknown artist in Ghana named Mansing Angel which became an instant hit and later an award winning video. Word travels fast and that first video lead to me doing videos for all of Ghana’s biggest musicians at that time i.e Becca, 4×4, Samini etc and going on to win countless awards at the various award shows. Working with Samini we snatched Ghana’s first Channel O award in South Africa; thus being Value added to Ghana’s music industry.
Film and television was the next logical step for me. As a director/ producer who knows a ton of aspiring actors who on average have a really tough time cracking into the industry, in any country, I wanted to create a platform that could provide a stepping stone for actors just like the countless music show platforms we see on television. This was something I was going to do America first, with American Actors, but since I was so already so heavily focused in Africa at the time I brought the opportunity to African Aspiring actors first; thus the Spirited Actor series was launched.
You see beyond knowing how to act, this industry is based on relationships, so if an actor doesn’t learn how to respect people, treat people right and have a positive attitude no one will want to work with them. This is one of the lessons we preached to the actors on that show. When you understand this, then you end up maintaining relationships with people who would want to always remain in your corner to help you beyond the show.
Over the years I’ve brought countless celebrities and industry leaders of various sectors to Africa either for concerts, humanitarian efforts, film, television, business, tourism etc. Familiar names like Kenny Latimore, Anthony Anderson, Bow Wow, Kerri Hilson, Morris Chestnut, Michael Jai White just to name a few.
I’ve taught people who’ve worked with me there in Africa over the years “How to Fish vs Giving them Fish,” while also teaching them the business, of the entertainment business in the process. People like Daniel Kofi Ewusie in Ghana who now has his own hit television series called “James Town Fishermen.” which airs on Viasat 1 in Ghana and is going on season 3.
I am not perfect and I’ve made huge mistakes in life and will continue to make more, but the key for me is to learn, ask for forgiveness, plan better, have the right intentions and move on.
The Spirited Actor production derailed my life in many ways. Taking 12 aspiring actors split between 2 countries (Ghana/Nigeria) to America to shoot a competitive reality show was never done before. Layers upon layers of obstacles at every turn, starting with U.S. Immigration process throughout. Things didn’t go smoothly for anyone, but we got through it as difficult as it was. In the end, I got the show delivered and placed on air as promised to everyone.
Apart from being a contestant in your 2012 reality show, what relationship did you have with Tunji Aderibigbe?
None at all. I only met him at the call backs in Ghana. I personally picked him to make it to America, because I judged him purely on his acting abilities. I didn’t know his personality at that time.
Have you ever defaulted in rewarding winners of your shows as promised?
There was only one winner of that particular show to which i have not defaulted. I am still working with the winner of the show to this day. So unless she is out there calling me a fraud etc then again this is all rubbish. Tunji was only promised to come to america and be on the show’s platform. No other reward.
The winner of the show Luckie Lawson has also gone on to new heights. I am currently working with her and her husband on a television and film project.
Umar Krupp who was also a cast member on the Spirited Actor show along with Tunji, is now an award winning actor / producer.
Did you have a falling out with Tunji Aderibigbe? Why do you think he’s coming after you now?
First of all who else could he vent about? It was just me. No big network or company. I was constantly called in to deal with this nonsense, so of course he would come at me. Things really came to a head when we almost got into a physical altercation because after he got eliminated he made a decision to physically fight a female cast member and push her down (I will not name). I received a call that Tunji did this and was extremely appalled. As a man putting your hands on a women is a big “No No” where I am from and completely unacceptable. I went down to the “House” to get to the bottom of things. Tunji explained his version of the story which made him seem completely innocent and contradicted what the the other person involved told me. I immediately asked several other cast members who where present at that time and they confirmed that Tunji was indeed lying about his actions. I had no choice but to call the Police on Tunji. While waiting for the police to arrive we had some serious words between each other. The cameras were rolling, because I needed to have evidence of his behavior just incase, however he thought that I would be airing this on the show as well, which was not my intention nor did I do that. I remember him complaining more about that at that time versus feeling bad about his actions.
This is just one of many irresponsible things we had to deal with Tunji while in America. Once he got eliminated he no longer cared about consequences. He had nothing to loose. Tunji went out in flames and in disrespectful fashion. He didn’t go home honorably at all.
So a new acting show opportunity comes to Nigeria where a few Nigerian aspiring actors are being selected to participate in a new acting competition show that Tunji would have more than likely came out audition for, if only It had nothing to do with me. In his mind I think he believes that he burnt a bridge with me and had zero chances since I am affiliated with the new show. So he took a scorched earth approach and tried to assassinate my character, credibility and scare others out of coming to audition. Why else would he wait 3 years to say these things about me? Besides hating the fact that he believed he had no shot at participating due to the way he went out in 2012, I have no clue as to why. Again it was all good until he got eliminated. Before then Tunji was really passionate about the show, acting and winning. Very competitive spirit indeed before his exist from the show.
Are there past contestants who have publicly attested to your credibility?
Yes indeed. I shared one of them with you.
What have been the implications of Tunji Aderibigbe’s allegations against you?
My work at this point in my life is bigger than me as an individual and is bigger than Tunji. Outside of having to take time out to answer this slander as i am now and getting lawyers involved to have him immediately cease and desists; none. You see the aim was to embarrass me and kill my credibility. People that matter most to me and who work with me know who i am, what i am capable of, what motivates me, inspires me and that my intentions are always coming from a good place. Again, actions speak louder than words. Crises doesn’t intimidate me nor does it make or break me it only makes me stronger and wiser. I accept that this comes with the territory.
I will close with this; “You don’t know people, whether in business, friendship, love relationships etc in life, until you have conflict with them. In those moments they will show you exactly who they are and who they’re not all at the same time. Thats when you can see someone’s true character.”